Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Countdown to War, Day 12. 9 July: Guns for Ireland, torture of suffragettes, and parasols.

One hundred years ago today, on Thursday 9 July 1914, as Martins group of young railwaymen read the Manchester Guardian together, they would have discovered that a furniture removal van had arrived in Londonderry the day before, from Glasgow. It was searched but nothing was found. 

One of the officers, however, was not satisfied and noticing that the van was internally sheeted with wood screwed to the sides, insisted on a full examination. A screwdriver was applied, and at once there was an amazing disclosure... The van and its contents were at once seized and conveyed to the police barrack yard, where 250 rifles were counted, with a full supply of ammunition.

Meanwhile in England, Francis Dyke Acland, Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, told a public meeting that ministers:

...were willing to turn a blind eye to preparations for civil war as long as there were any hopes of a peaceful settlement, but if force was used to paralyse the civil government and to prevent civil servants of the Crown from doing their duty, then force would be met by force, whatever the consequences.

According to the paper, the statement was met by cheers. Which was curious: who cheered a minister who’d been turning a blind eye to preparations for civil war?

Reginald McKenna: would never use
torture as a punishment
But, hey, if force feeding happened, well yes,
it could be punishing...
Meanwhile, the argument continued to rage against force feeding of suffragettes. Reginald McKenna, the Home Secretary, faced by denunciations of the practice by physicians:

...strongly repudiates the statement by them that “forcible feeding is being used as a punishment and as a deterrent’ and adds that ‘nothing he has ever said affords any justification for it.” That must, of course, be taken as conclusive so far as Mr. McKenna’s meaning is concerned in any statement that he has made. That is to say, he has never represented forcible feeding either as a punishment for offences committed or as a deterrent to their commission. That is perfectly true; and yet the fact remains that forcible feeding is being used and has been admitted by Mr. McKenna to be used as a deterrent, not indeed against the commission of crimes but against evading the penalty for them. ... The forcible feeding is there just the same, it becomes virtually part of the punishment, and it is used to break the will of the prisoner.

“Brilliant!” said Martin, “exactly true and a barefaced lie. We
’re torturing people. In the twentieth century, for God’s sake. And McKenna comes up with weasel words to mislead us.”

“He’s a banker, isn’t he?” said the Cynic.

Churchill and McKenna swap places,
at the Home Office and Admiralty in 1911
Beresford, Admiral and MP, was an outspoken
champion of the Navy and opponent of the government
Fortunately, the paper wasn’t devoid of good news. “The Parasol and its Possibilities” opened up some fresh perspectives on a key question for our working class lads in 1914. “This year we all wear flounces and tunics and so the parasol, as a matter of course, is flounces and tunics.”
A burning issue returned in 1914:
Parasols? Flounces? Both?
One of the young tracklayers read that piece out, in a good imitation of southern English, but on a clear and audible foundation of good, clean Manchester; another flounced around the room, hand on hip and elbow, to show just how he was wearing his tunic that year.

How they all laughed.

Bringing together two great questions of the year:
US suffragettes with their parasols


Anonymous said...

Just noticed Good Company is now published. (Have bought it and will review it shortly).
This is also a war of sorts.



David Beeson said...

The same misjudgements and misdirected motivations, indeed.